Arsenal vs Hull City reaction: Arsene Wenger's anger is of his own making

Arsenal 2 Hull City 2

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The Independent Football

Barely two months into the season and Arsenal are already in familiar, unwanted territory: chasing the Champions League places. Eleven points adrift of Chelsea, with two wins in eight games, the optimism of August has long gone.

After this point, rescued in the 90th minute by Danny Welbeck, Arsene Wenger was simmering with barely suppressed fury. A terse, patronising interview with BBC’s Jacqui Oatley was followed by unusually curt press conferences. The players were gagged from talking to the print media. If the howls of anger rolling down from the Emirates’ seats as Arsenal sought an equaliser underlined the supporters’ frustration the manager feels it more than anyone.

But who else is responsible for his ludicrously unbalanced squad, replete with brilliant attacking midfielders but with the defensive cover of a colander?

Paradoxically, and adding to Wenger’s ire, it was not the fill-ins who could be blamed. Mathieu Flamini and Per Mertesacker were as at fault for Mo Diame’s opening goal as makeshift centre-half Nacho Monreal (though referee Roger East was most to blame). Mertesacker was done by Abel Hernandez for the second, but equally culpable was Jack Wilshere who allowed the provider, Tom Huddlestone, to jog away from him throwing a lazy arm towards Monreal to suggest ‘your man’, before realising the Spaniard could not leave his station.

“I think the way we concede goals at the moment is too easy,” said Wenger. “We are guilty is to give two goals away from nothing. Our defensive efficiency is not there at the moment. It’s a bit linked with confidence and concentration.”

It would be easy to blame the international break. Arsenal had eight players away, but most were with England and were flown home by charter flight from Estonia on Sunday night then ferried by Football Association car to their beds.

Moreover, the game’s outstanding players were the ones who racked up most airmiles. Alexis Sanchez played two full matches in Chile, on Sunday and Wednesday, and were it not for Arsenal’s injuries the opening goalscorer would probably have been rested.

City’s best player, Mo Diame, did not even return home after playing for Senegal in African Nations Cup qualifiers. Arriving back from Tunisia on Friday he joined his team-mates direct from Heathrow. Steve Bruce had few doubts, however, about playing him. “We had four or five who have been halfway around the world, which is never easy. You know from a long-haul holiday yourself. You come back on a plane, you’re physically knackered. You can’t sleep, you can’t do this. To expect to come and play a game of football…

“But Diame had ordered about 20 tickets, so I thought: he wants to play. If he’s bought 20 tickets, he wants his mates and his family to see him.” Bruce’s instincts were correct.

“He’s been brilliant,” said Curtis Davies of a player frequently linked with Arsenal, but signed by Hull from West Ham this summer. “His quality, his composure. I was expecting a hustle and bustle midfielder, a strong, get-about player. I thought the goals would come, but to get four in five is ridiculous.”

Though Hull lost Nikica Jelavic before the game, and Steve Harper, Michael Dawson and Hernandez to injury during it, Arsenal did not look like levelling before Sanchez’s magic feet set up Welbeck. Their pressure brought them ten fruitless corners, bringing to 54 the total in the Premier League this season without a goal scored. Given the lack of aerial threat, especially without Laurent Koscielny, you wonder why Arsenal do not copy Barcelona and simply recycle the ball into play rather than cross it into the box.